Facebook removes 82 pages and accounts linked to Iran

Facebook said Friday it removed dozens of Iranian-based accounts for provoking responses to political issues online. File

Posting about political topics such as race relations, immigration and the U.S. president, these pages and accounts posed as United States, or in some cases UK, citizens.

The affected posts focused on topics such as race relations, opposition to President Donald Trump and immigration, it said.

The purge involved 30 pages, 33 accounts and three groups at Facebook, as well as 16 accounts on Instagram.

Facebook Inc said on Friday it had deleted accounts originating in Iran that attracted more than 1 million US and British followers, its latest effort to combat disinformation activity on its platform. Some of their efforts appear to be rather small-scale, as less than $100 was reportedly spent on running two ads on Facebook - one before the 2016 presidential election, and another one last January.

Facebook admitted that it failed to find any ties between the deleted accounts and the Iranian government, though.

The company was quick to point out that while the activity originated in Iran, they weren't able to attribute it to the Iranian government.

Friday's announcement follows months of efforts by USA -based social media companies to scrub phony and provocative accounts from their platforms - and two weeks before the US midterm elections.

Google at the time also blocked YouTube channels and other accounts over the misinformation campaign linked to Iran, on the heels of similar moves by Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook has removed 82 Pages, Groups and accounts for what it calls "coordinated inauthentic behaviour" that originated in Iran and targeted people in the U.S. and Britain.

Facebook has in recent months launched massive campaign to fight online misinformation activities by foreign actors ahead of the upcoming USA mid-term elections, and has set up an "Elections War Room" where its security employees took all possible means including artificial intelligence technology to combat cyber threat.

"Bringing teams together in the war room has helped us move much more quickly", Gleicher said.

In August, Facebook similarly removed hundreds of accounts from both Facebook and Instagram, some of which dated as far back as 2011. The fake pages also used videos and authored comments to drive engagement on Facebook as opposed to pushing users to pro-Iranian websites outside the platform.

Facebook says it now has more than 20,000 people working on "safety and security" while advances in artificial intelligence mean more fake accounts are being spotted.

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